December 3, 2011

National championship goes to Ohio Wesleyan

Match report by Christan Shirk

Ohio Wesleyan wins its second national championship with a 2-1 win over Calvin, and with the win the Bishops give coach Jay Martin his record setting 608th win, the most ever for a college men's soccer coach at any level.

Two very good and very confident teams stepped onto the Blossom Soccer Stadium field; two teams with contrasting styles: Ohio Wesleyan preferring to work the ball on the ground with controlled possession, Calvin wanting to attack quickly through the air using speed and physicality.  It didn’t take long for the game to heat up, both sides coming out with lots of energy, trying to establish the game to their liking. 

A Calvin Knight directs a shot at Ohio Wesleyan keeper Paul Hendricks.
Photo for by Emily Daum

In the third minute Calvin was given a free kick just inside the Wesleyan half and the kick was sent into the area, but the Bishops were able to clear.  A minute later Calvin’s Chris Nance was able to find Tyler Vegter with a centering cross from the right side.  Vegter headed the ball on frame but the Wesleyan keeper Paul Hendricks was there to pull in the effort.  Then it was Ohio Wesleyan’s chance to test the goalkeeper when a well taken free kick forced Michael Dolan to punch the ball over for a corner. 

In the 8th minute Calvin’s Lawrence Murray sent a long ball over the defense to a streaking Nance who won a corner when the Bishops clear the ball over the endline.  Two minutes later going the other way, Matt Bonfini raced down the middle off the field into the box and squared the ball to Jon Stenger coming in on the right.  Stenger rounded the goalkeeper who had raced off his line but three defenders had retreated to cover and Stenger’s hard shot couldn’t find its way through, with Murray blocking its entrance into the goal.  Soon the danger was back at the other end again, a Calvin corner kick being met by a glancing header from Zach Willis at the near post that sent the ball across the face of the goal to the back post, requiring a foot save off the line to preserve the shutout.

It was a back and forth affair, but passing the 15 minute mark Ohio Wesleyan began to ascend, putting Calvin on their heels for much of the next 15 minutes.  In the 21st minute the interplay between the Bishop attackers as they worked the ball across the top of the box was superb, but Stenger could not find his man heading for  the far post with his service across the area.  The few times Calvin did break the pressure they were quick to create danger.  In the 23rd minute it took an excellent sliding tackle by Kit North to halt the surging run of Calvin’s Willis whose speed gave the Bishops fits whenever Calvin could get him service.  After withstanding a few more waves of Bishop pressure, Joe Broekhuizen was able to run down a ball in the left corner and send a cross back into the box that the goalkeeper claimed in the air.

Ohio Wesleyan senior Travis Wall fights for control with Calvin freshman Sean Broekhuizen.
Photo for by Emily Daum

Ohio Wesleyan was passing the ball around very well, but despite all their possession that kept Calvin pinned back, the Knights were doing well to prevent good looks on goal.  In the 30th minute, however, Ohio Wesleyan was banging on the door after a nice exchange down the right flank freed Travis Wall on the endline to cut the ball back to Dylan Stone entering the area.  Stone’s shot was blocked and cleared off to the left, falling for Paulo Bucci to take another crack but his effort was also blocked.  After surviving that, Calvin began to see more of the ball, moving the battle back into the midfield. 

Both teams were playing their games when in possession, but neither side was finding an opening once reaching the area.  That is, until the 39th minute.  Bucci did well to maintain possession as he neared the left endline and then chipped the ball back towards the top of the box.  A Calvin defender’s attempted deflection did little to change the ball’s path and Wall was eagerly awaiting it at the edge of the box.  A quick settling touch allowed him to hurriedly kick the ball to the bottom right corner of the goal beyond the reach of Dolan.  Ohio Wesleyan had struck first. 

They’d be at it again two minutes later when Bucci got the ball on the left.  He outran one defender, then cut insde on another on the left edge of the box, and before anyone else could close him down he sent a hard curling effort over the keeper and into the far side netting.  It was perfectly on target and just like that a 0-0 game had become a 2-goal lead.  And the Bishops weren’t content.  Sean Broekhuizen pushed the ball out wide left to Matt Dodrill who chipped the ball back into the area with Stone getting a head to is but at such a reach that he couldn’t direct it downward and it popped high and wide-right.  It would remain 2-0 into the interval.  

Bishops sophomore Matt Shadoan leaps Calvin junior Chris Nance in a midfield battle for control.
Photo by John Albright for OWU Athletics

Out of the break, Calvin seemed re-energized, being very active while Ohio Wesleyan seemed subdued.  The midfield battle was being won by Calvin and Ohio Wesleyan was having to fall back into defensive mode more than they had for much of the first half.  Seven minutes after the restart the Calvin pressure was rewarded.  Zach Willis’ run down the left side seemed to have petered out, but he managed a centering pass to Travis Vegter as he entered the area.  Vegter, faced by a row of three defenders, faked right, stepped left to find enough of an opening to squeeze his hard driven shot through and into the far right bottom corner of the goal. 

Ohio Wesleyan was noticeably unsettled, showing uncharacteristic impatience in possession as their short ground game went missing in action.  Hungry for the equalizer, Calvin had the Bishops on the back heel two minutes later when Willis raced down the left side and, nearing the endline, fired the ball dangerously across the area, but a lunging Paul Hendricks was able to snag the ball out of the air to end the danger.  The game was end-to-end with Ohio Wesleyan getting caught up in the frantic pace as they rushed to the other end and won a corner.  The kick was initially cleared but sent back in to feet of Bonfini who, spite being closed down by a pair of defenders, got shot off  that Dolan saved.  A minute later  Stenger took a shot from a coupe steps outside the box on the right with Dolan saving again. 

More than 15 minutes passed before the Bishops finally started to play their style some, but they would only do so inconsistently throughout the period.  It was shaping up to be a game of two halves, and at the 20 minute mark Calvin came close to equalizing, first with Travis Vegter’s hard shot from left to right that could only be parried out for a corner, and then with Joe Broekhuizen strong header which was disappointingly right at the keeper.

Ohio Wesleyan celebrates their title with their fans.
Photo for by Emily Daum

Halfway through the second period Willis showed up on the right wing to try a centering pass that was blocked back to him and this time he delivered a cross that took all of keeper Hendrick’s elevation and strength to grab as he was bundled into.  Minutes later Calvin served a promising the ball into the area but a last second Bishop header averted the danger.  The Knights had another chance when a 75th  minute cross fell in the area and came to Willis, but in a crowded box he never got a clean look.  Ohio Wesleyan escaped 79th minute danger from a great Calvin cross when the defender stepped in front of the intended target at the last second to head away. 

In the 83rd minute Ohio Wesleyan almost got an insurance goal.  They passed the ball left to right across the top of the area from Bonfini to Bloecher to Stenger whose low shot to the right Dolan could only parry out for a corner.  As the clock ticked down towards 4 minutes, Calvin’s Heethuis was fed the ball behind the defense and his shot as he entered the area was too hot for Hendricks to secure, but the spilled ball was quickly cleared.  Calvin’s last good chance to even the score came with just over three to play when Travis Vegter glanced a ball toward goal from the center of the box, but it flashed  wide off the right post.  The last three minutes ran down and the national championship belonged to Ohio Wesleyan for the second time and Coach Jay Martin had more wins than any men’s college soccer coach ever.

The Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan are the men's DIII national champions!
Photo for by Emily Daum
No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.